The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Diontae Johnson’s relatively low catch percentage is a legitimate, albeit minor, reason to be concerned.
Explanation: Although Ben Roethlisberger has already shown heavy favor toward Diontae Johnson, targeting him 23 times in the first two games before he missed most of game three with a concussion, the reality is that the pair have registered an incompletion on more than 40 percent of their attempts together.
Considering the fact that even the duo of Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges managed to complete passes to Johnson last year at a rate of 64.1 percent, and that was with six dropped passes, yes, it is a concern that the connection between Roethlisberger and the young wide receiver has been so far lacking in polish.
Among the 54 wide receivers who have been targeted at least 20 times so far this season, Johnson’s catch percentage ranks 40th in the league. And his average depth of target is more shallow than that which he faced last year.
While I fully expect that this will improve over time, the fact is that Roethlisberger and Johnson have to get better in this area, and that comes down to repetitions and building chemistry and trust. Roethlisberger has admitted that he has to learn to trust both himself and Johnson, so the issue has already been acknowledged.
It is too early for there to be any concern, minor or otherwise. We are dealing with just three games, and while there has been some chemistry issues, arguably, a lot of the incompletions have come down to mechanical errors, whether it’s an errant pass or a dropped ball.
Don’t get me wrong, those things are also concerns, but the purview of this question concerns primarily the relationship between passer and catcher, and I don’t believe it has been established that there is any meaningful problem here. The only thing that we are seeing is the necessary and accelerated maturity of a relationship with a veteran passer and a relatively inexperienced prospective new number one target.